Gehrayee (The Depth – 1980)

Gehrayee, a little-known movie of Indian cinema, is probably also the best horror movie ever made within the country. This movie was made when the 70s turned into the 80s, but even today it can scare the living daylights out of people. The movie is basically about possession, and there are no special effects at all, no monsters, zombies, vampires, but it is only by the strength of acting of the possessed actor that the movie transcends all borders of horror cinema.

Plot: A man sells his land in his native village, inciting the ire of the local villagers living on it. When he is back home in the city, his daughter starts behaving in a bizarre manner.

Language: Hindi

Directors: Vikas Desai and Aruna Raje (as Arunavikas)

#10Things I Liked and Disliked about Gehrayee

What I Liked

  1. The acting of all characters. When you have names like Dr. Sreeram Lagoo, Anant Nag, Amrish Puri, Sudhir Dalvi, and Padmini Kolhapure, very little can go wrong. A notable mention must be made here of Padmini Kolhapure. She plays the possessed girl, and she was presumably only 12 when she acted this role. But what a performance it is! You need to watch it to believe it. Mention should also be made of Rita Bhaduri in the final scene.
  2. The story. Everything is connected and moves in a believable manner. You cannot predict the next scene as you can do in most other horror movies.
  3. The avoidance of all clichés. There are no lone women (or men) walking in a big house in the dark. There are no evil monsters with bad makeup. There is no cleavage or dirty-dancing as was quite common in the Ramsay horror movies of that time. There is also no comedy buffoonery as was typified by Mehmood, Jagdeep, Rajendra Nath, etc. in that era. Thank the Lord for small mercies!
  4. The cameo by Amrish Puri. Amrish Puri was just starting out when he made the movie. He is quite young, but you can see the same intensity in his eyes and the tenor in his voice that made him so popular in later years as Mogambo and Balwant Rai and General Dong. Watching him is a treat; you cannot help getting mesmerized by those eyes.
  5. The setting. The whole movie plays out in Karnataka, majorly in Bengaluru. The family is a middleclass family, and their depiction is spot-on. This itself adds a different aura to the film. The rich sarees worn by the mother and the costumes of the people, the traditional marks on their bodies, the accented Hindi, the subtle references to foods like medu-vada, every small detail adds to the aura of this excellent movie. Even the village in the start and end of the movie makes you feel you are actually there.
  6. The use of Indian beliefs and superstitions. There’s a blessed lemon, a voodoo-type doll, a cobra. All these things make the story so Indian, and the best thing is that they are done in a very authentic manner. The actors really seem to believe in whatever they are doing with these things.
  7. The music. The background score (Enoch Daniels) sets the exact mood for each scene.
  8. The climax. Wow, what a climax! What a twist! No one would see that coming. Even after the core plot of the movie is taken care of—that of the possession—the movie goes on ahead. For a moment, you don’t know why, and then you get sucked into one of the spookiest scenes in Hindi cinema. Don’t watch this alone at night.

What I Disliked

  1. The similarities to Exorcist. This movie is definitely not a copy of it, but you can see a few references here and there. But I may be too harsh in saying that; every movie about possession is compared to Exorcist anyway, the grand-daddy of them all. Personally, I felt the movie to be superlative.
  2. The length. The movie could have been sharper by about 10 minutes. Everything is explained in languorous detail. Though this is one of the strengths of the movie, it also becomes an impediment when you are waiting for things to happen. Also, the lone song sung by Kishore Kumar does not serve any purpose.

In conclusion: All fans of true-blue horror must get their hands on this movie right away and watch it. It’s one of Indian cinema’s gems that needs to be preserved.

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